Thursday, 30 September 2010

It's Raining Blood

My friend and sometimes writer, Solera, challenged me to write a poem using the words "rain" "blood" "flower". I didn't need to use all of them or write them out in the poem, the idea was to get inspired.

I tried and I tried and I tried. But I'm in a very "prosy" period and all I could come up with was a bizarre flash fiction piece ...
And does anyone know if a prose poem and a piece of flash fiction are the same thing?

Very grateful for any feedback!

Picture by Birdy27

Monday, 27 September 2010

Chichester Writing Festival

I spent the weekend at West Dean college, taking part in the 4th Chichester Writing Festival. When I say "take part" I don't mean that I was on stage. Even if there was a programme with a panel of different authors it didn't feel like a stage - the whole room was a stage. The point of Chichester Writing Festival is that everyone who's there is welcome to take part in the discussions and debates. And everyone is a writer. It doesn't matter if you're a bestselling crime writer, a debut author or someone not yet published. As Lady Antonia Fraser said "I was a writer from the moment I learned to write."

The panel events were chaired by creative writing tutor Greg Mosse, and the evening events were chaired by his wife, the author Kate Mosse. I arrived back in Brighton last night with itchy fingers wanting to write, feeling inspired after hearing the stories of a dozen authors.

I learnt that Michael Morpurgo doesn't like to write - but he loves telling stories. I learnt that some agents are obsessed with characters and don't even bother to read the synopsis (Hannah Westland) and that some agents are more focused on plot (Lorella Belli). I learnt that Vicky Blunden from Myriad Editions works very closely with her authors during the editing process. I learnt that some authors need to rewrite a whole part (Ed Hillyer) whilst others only need to change a a paragraph (Isabel Ashdown). I learnt that Peter James spends a day a week with the police to gain material and inspiration for his novels. I learnt that Bidisha is fed up with talking about being published at 16. I learnt that some poets (Becky Swift) have no idea that their work is good.

For me the most interesting people were the ones from abroad: Bulgarian Nikolai Grozni (ex concert pianist and ex Buddhist monk) who tried to write a novel about his life, but turned it into an autobiographical memoir (writing in English (American) which is not his first language); Zornitsa Hristova - also Bulgarian - who translates English fiction into Bulgarian and Bulgarian fiction into English, and has developed a creative story game for children; and Jonina Leosdottir from Iceland who has written a coming-out trilogy for Young Adults partly set in Brighton, but not yet translated into English. Meeting these people gave me hope and courage to keep pursuing my career, writing in English.

Finally I learnt that most published writers are published because of a contact. Not always by knowing an agent or editor personally, but for example being married to a person who's already published or knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone ... The word networking came up several times over the weekend. Now I'm off to find the new contacts/possible friends I made on Facebook ...

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

Sports, Prostitution & Other Aspects of History in Fiction - Free Author Event at Hove Library This Thursday

Debut authors Ed Hillyer and Jonathan Kemp, both published by Myriad Editions of Hove will read from their novels followed by a Q&A, curated by literary agent Adrian Weston.

Where? Hove Library, Children's Area
When? Thursday 23 September, doors 6.30pm for 7pm start
How? Free! No need to book, but turn up early to avoid disappointment, refreshments (wine, juice) available

Follow Hove Library on Facebook

Ed Hillyer and Jonathan Kemp's very different novels both explore the untold stories of the past, from Aboriginal cricketers touring Kent and the capital in the 1860s, to rent boys on the fringes of high society in Victorian London.

Ed Hillyer was selected as one of Waterstone's New Voices for 2010, and his novel THE CLAY DREAMING is an epic adventure with a mystery at its heart, brimming with memorable characters and historical intrigue, and etched with documentary detail that brings both Regency and Victorian London vividly to life.

Jonathan Kemp's first novel, LONDON TRIPTYCH, explores the lives of three gay men in three historical periods - the 1890s, 1950s and 1980s - in a dark, startling and unsettling narrative of sex, exploitation and dependence set against London’s strangely constant gay underworld. Jake Arnott described the book as 'vivid and visceral... cuts deep to reveal the hidden layers of a secret history.'

Sunday, 19 September 2010

Another Shortlist!

I made it to another shortlist with another short story: Next of Kin for the Ilkley Literature Festival competition, judged by Barbara Trapido.

I'm very happy and excited as this indeed shows that I can write in English.

Read about my other story, Lovers of the Planet, that also made a shortlist here.

What I think these two shortlisted stories have in common is that I really like them and felt passionate about them when I was writing them ...

Thanks to James B, Morgan and Solera for feedback on Next of Kin and thanks to Chris L, James H and Tim for for feedback on Lovers of the Planet.

Thursday, 16 September 2010

Write Club - not for the faint-hearted

Whether you're a beginner, suffering from writer's block or just want a break from that god-damned serious novel you're working on to have some fun - Write Club is for you.

James Burt and Ellen De Vries run a monthly event at the Skiff in Brighton. People get together, not to fight but to write flash fiction or poetry. The evening is divided into different rounds where the participants are invited to write for either 2,3,4,5 or 10 minutes inspired by a picture projected on the wall.

The first rule is: Don't apologise

That's why Write Club is not for the faint-hearted. After each round you have to read out loud what you have written. But the great thing is that nobody is allowed to apologise. This adds to the atmosphere and takes away some of that seriousness and pressure. Nobody expects you to come up with a masterpiece in five minutes. Although some of the writing is so good it makes me jealous ...

I've mentioned it before, but I think all writers whether professional or not, need time to PLAY. I often make the mistake of just sitting down thinking "now I'm going to work on this particular story" and then I feel frightened and blocked. To get going I need to write a lot of rubbish before I begin. Write Club helps you to keep the writing muscles going. Just like a runner is stupid to do a marathon without exercising beforehand a writer is stupid to write a novel without doing some exercises now and again. I don't think I'll use any of the stuff I wrote at Write Club to work on. I joined in for sheer pleasure, pen against paper, letting the stream of conciousness flow ...

As a bonus a piece of cake was thrown in as inspiration among the photographs at the last session. For ten minutes you were supposed to write about your cake-eating experience, but as I'm having a sugar free (and alcohol-free) month I got an apple instead ...

This is part of what I wrote:

"You can't eat an apple in silence.
Not the kind of snack you reach for in a tent
with somebone sleeping next to you.
You'd want something soft
like a banana, or a cake ..."

Next Write Club session is in October, but James and Ellen are also hosting other workshops. Check it out here.

Friday, 10 September 2010

Public Speaking: my journey from shy smalltown girl to published author

I've spent a few days in Sweden to talk about my life as a writer and my first novel Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd (Punk industrial hard rocker with attitude)

This week it was the opening of a new cultural centre in my hometown, Nässjö. On Tuesday I was invited to hold a talk in the library and the day after I did the same 45 min talk at the youth centre. I also went to another town, Tranås to talk to young people about identity (which is the main theme in my novel).

It's always a bit nerve-wracking to speak in my hometown as a lot of people know me and/or my family and I can't get away with any lies ... Not that I usually lie, but sometimes I change things around a bit ...

Even if the audience was very different at these three occasions I basically spoke about the same thing: my journey from quiet/shy/ugly smalltown girl to confident "punk industrial hard rocker with attitude".

I made an active choice the summer when I was sixteen. When school started again (in Sweden you go to the school "gymnasiet" from when you're 16 until 19) I wanted to be a punkrocker. I also had thoughts of becoming a "good-looking popular girl", but decided it was much harder so I settled for the punk rock style.

Now, 10-12 years later I've realised it's just as hard to become a punkrocker as it is to become a good-looking girl. It takes courage to find your own style, search for alternative music and go to school looking like a car accident with hairspray- damaged hair and ripped jeans. For me it was a relief though, not having to keep up with the latest fashion, although in the end I compared myself to other punks and wondered if I was a "real" punk ...

Whoever you are it's tough to grow up. I think everybody spends far too much time in front of the mirror worrying about if they're okay or not. Sometimes the beautiful people are not visible because they are too shy to be seen ...

Tuesday, 7 September 2010


It paid off going a bit submission mad the other week. My short story, Lovers of the Planet was shortlisted for Spilling Ink's short story competition and will be published in their annual print anthology. Very exciting!

At the moment I'm in my hometown Nässjö, Sweden. Tonight I'm doing a talk at the new local library about my writing career and first novel Punkindustriell hårdrockare med attityd, and tomorrow night I'll do the same talk at the new Youth Centre. Friday I'm going to Tranås to speak at a school.

And I'm not the only lucky one in the family ... My Dad won 3rd prize in a local sunflower competition ...

You can read Lovers of the Planet by clicking here. It was inspired by a woman who knocked on my door and "forced me" to sign up for Friends of the Earth ...